Thursday, February 8, 2007

Hard Case Strikes Again

Charles Ardai and his team at Hard Case Crime are always on the case. On top of publishing a fascinating, truly motley collection of pulp classics, lost works and new crime fiction - including most recently resurrecting a lost manuscript by Mickey Spillane - it turns out they're branching out into the movies. Via a note from the man himself:

"The gist of it is that we've hooked up with Papazian-Hirsch, the producers of (among many other things over the past 30+ years) the outstanding HBO series "Rome," to create a series of Hard Case Crime movies," Ardai writes. "These are early days yet, so just how many films will get made or which of our books they'll be based on is still up in the air -- but we definitely feel we're in good hands, and will keep you posted."

As reported in Variety:

Screen time for crime

Papazian-Hirsch Entertainment has formed a producing partnership with James Polster and Charles Ardai to develop feature projects based on the Hard Case Crime novels.

First film, aimed for lensing later this year, will be "Little Girl Lost," based on the Richard Aleas novel about a young detective who discovers that his high school sweetheart has just been found brutally murdered on the roof of New York's seediest strip club.

"Richard Aleas" is a pen name for Hard Case Crime publisher Ardai, who will collaborate on the screenplay with Polster ("The Rape of Richard Beck") and James Hirsch. Robert Papazian and Hirsch will exec produce.

"These movies will adhere to the visual and storytelling style that have made the Hard Case Crime novels so popular," said Papazian and Hirsch, co-producers on HBO's "Rome" and the "Raw Feed" DVD thrillers distributed by Warner Home Video. "We want to capture everything that makes these books irresistible, from the great plotting and hard-boiled action to the film noir atmosphere, which just begs to be brought to the screen with musical scores by the legends of American jazz."

Hirsch told Daily Variety that the pics will be budgeted in the $5 million range.

Ardai, the founder and CEO of Internet company Juno, launched Hard Case in 2004 with the aim of reviving the pulp era crime novels of the 1940s and '50s. The imprint, a venture of Winterfall, includes novels by Stephen King, Mickey Spillane, Ed McBain, Pete Hamill and Donald E. Westlake, as well as pulp era authors such as Cornell Woolrich, David Dodge and George Axelrod.

I mentioned Hard Case way back in 2005 in a very early Bookslut column about John D. MacDonald. I'm definitely going to have to revisit them at some point and cover their admirable efforts in more detail. From Bookslut:

I like to think that MacDonald would have approved of the new Hard Case Crime line of pulp-style paperbacks. Novelists Charles Ardai and Max Phillips have revived an inspired mix of lost crime books from a whole line of MacDonald’s contemporaries and authors I’m sure he influenced. So far the series holds right upagainst Vintage Crime and other respectable, murderous houses.

Hard Case has been doing good work. I’m always happy to see Larry Block’s back catalogue back in print and the editors at Hard Case have managed to dig up "Grifter’s Game" from the celebrated New York writer. Other authors in the series include Donald Westlake, who writes the Parker novels under the aforementioned Richard Stark pseudonym; Max Allan Collins, who is riding the success of "Road To Perdition;" Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason; and David Dodge, who wrote "To Catch a Thief." They have fantastic covers, too. Robert McGinnis, who created the original James Bond posters for the Sean Connery films, is one of the painters chosen to recreate the visceral sixties style of these old dime novels.

Hard Case has even managed to land Stephen King, who has composed an entirely new book for the line, "The Colorado Kid," to be published in October. Following the story of two newspapermen and their investigation into a death in Maine, King says his new book is“more bleu than outright noir,” but it should fall comfortably into Hard Case’s two-fisted tradition.

UPDATE: Another quote from Ardai in the full press release from the whole messy affair:

"“Some of the most popular films of the past fifteen years belong to the same pulp tradition as Hard Case Crime,” said Ardai. “Whether you’re looking at a down-and-dirty story of crooks and cops like 'The Departed' or a heist story like 'Ocean’s Eleven' or a cat-and-mouse story like 'The Fugitive' or a revenge story like 'Kill Bill,' you’re looking at classic character-driven crime fiction done with enormous style and energy."

Classy, that Ardai with his fedora hat and his Internet fortune he's squandering on printing these little books we love. And before I forget, it's worth gossiping that the new edition of "Ocean's 11" that comes out later this year (read: to cash in on the release of "Ocean's 13") will include a new documentary about heist pictures and heist novels featuring interviews with Ardai and members of his gang including Jason Starr, the co-author with Ken Bruen of "Bust" and Peter Pavia ("Dutch Uncle").